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Senior citizens can get a checkup on their benefits

Updated: May 3, 2013 12:15PM



Q. I have a neighbor who is elderly, and I know she is struggling but too proud to ask for help. Is there any way I can find out how she could get assistance paying for food and for her medicine?

A. What a great question. In these slow economic times, many seniors are living on a fixed income and struggling to pay for the basics. Sadly, they are unaware of the many programs at the federal, state and local level that are designed especially for seniors. So if you have an elderly friend or parent, you could make all the difference by guiding them to these special deals.

The place to start the search is at a terrific website — www.BenefitsCheckup.org. This site was created by the National Council on Aging, a non-profit group that is supported by private donations and government grants. BenefitsCheckup.org is a search engine that helps seniors find assistance in paying for food, prescription drugs, utilities and more. It offers help getting tax relief, transportation, and legal issues.

You’ll be surprised at how much help is available. The site says it has helped 3,470,339 people find over $12.8 billion worth of benefits in the 10 years since it has been in effect.

The search engine is very specific, not just a generic description of programs. You’ll enter the senior’s Zip code and some personal information such as family income and assets (without any names or address). That enables recommendations for programs available in your area.

Some are offered by government agencies, designed to benefit seniors and other low income people. Other programs offer very low cost drugs from pharmaceutical manufacturers. You’ll never know until you search and ask.

Each state also has resources for seniors. In Illinois, you can go to the website of the Illinois Department of Aging — www.state.il.us/aging to find a list of additional resources for everything from elder abuse to Alzheimer’s to help for seniors with debt or gambling problems. There is a tremendous amount of support available — if only seniors knew where to look and were encouraged to seek it.

And that’s the crux of the problem. Many seniors are too proud to ask for help — although they’ve paid into the “system” for many years. They are the ones who have earned our respect and help, but they are the least likely to be computer-savvy enough to find help on their own. You can save your neighbor’s self-respect by inviting her to “test” your new computer and do the search for her.

Post questions for Terry on her blog at www.TerrySavage.com and at blogs.suntimes.com/savage/.



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